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Yesterday I saw a Facebook post in a private group by an actor who says he’s looking for representation. He asked if having a reel is necessary, and he got some helpful feedback from people on the page. I added my thoughts, too, which I will share a portion of here.

Does an Agent Really Need a Reel?
Here’s part of my response to the actor looking for an agent. I wrote, “The agent needs all the ammo for marketing you and demos and clips are the best thing you can provide. It’s the quickest way someone can get a sense of your talent and the level of productions you have worked in but it goes even further than that.” 

At a casting director workshop last year in Houston, I discovered another way reels and clips make an impact. I shared that info as part of my reply on Facebook as well, writing, “Did you know on ActorsAccess.com, actors with demos and clips get moved to the top of each list of submissions to casting directors? That means without a clip on the site, you may lose a chance to even audition for a role if they found enough people before getting to you.” 

Is It Ever Too Soon to Get an Agent?
When I looked at some of the other replies to the actor’s Facebook post, I noticed the actor commented about being new at acting and only involved with it for a couple of months. Some veterans in the business might say he’s too eager to get an agent and should wait until he has more experience and training. I disagree. There is no one right time to pursue representation for everyone. The biggest variable is your marketability.

What Is My Marketability?
While having a demo is essential for working actors, newcomers may discover their immediate marketability is influenced by a different set of variables. For example, if you’re 40-50, male, and Caucasian (like me) submitting to an agent who has an abundance of talent that already falls into the same category, you may find getting offered representation by that particular agent may be more challenging. They have plenty of “you” already, so to speak. But if this agent is seeing a lot of roles being cast calling for actors with looks they don’t have a surplus of, those actors could be deemed more marketable.

Measuring your marketability cannot be done alone, of course. As a newer actor, you don’t know what roles exist for your look and type and you certainly won’t know how an agent will assess you fully. What you can do is aim to increase your marketability to give potential agents a more powerful version of you.

How Can I Increase My Marketability?
The ideal situation would be to get representation and be instantly ready to work that same day, not weeks or months from then. So here’s a list of 10 ways to make sure an agent sees you as highly marketable today. Make this your To-Do List before meeting with the agent.

  1. Get a professional to shoot your headshots. Even as a newcomer, you can find infinite resources to tell you how to get a quality headshot that will get the attention of an agent. For example, take a look at the superb work of LA photographer Kenneth Dolin. Seriously, look at it now.
  2. Properly format your resume in the 3-column style, with Project Title, Role Type, and Director as your entries across and acting categories down. Here’s an online reference for you, although the printed version includes only Film, TV, New Media, Training, and select Special Skills.
  3. Create online accounts on all the usual casting sites, which you can do for free. Those include ActorsAccess.com (for outside LA), CastingNetworks.com, and NowCasting.com. Agents need you to be on the sites so they can submit you for roles.
  4. Carefully assess what special skills you possess and look for options that stand out. This is not about impressing the agent; it’s about identifying marketable skills you could be called upon to use in a commercial or film. To get started, look at the categories on ActorsAccess.com, including Athletic Endeavors, Performance Skills, and Accents.
  5. Know the market demands and be prepared to meet them. In Texas, where I started my acting career, it’s customary for actors to travel between Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Sometimes you get less than 24 hours notice. It’s important to understand the value of being a regional actor in that state and be able to get to those out-of-town auditions if you want to create a stream of opportunities for yourself.
  6. Know thyself. Be able to tell an agent what roles and types of productions draw your attention. Be able to articulate clearly why you choose to act. On a related note, aim to be a contributor to the art rather than someone who is simply wanting attention, fame, or money.
  7. Create your own demos strictly for the agent’s eyes. This could be in the form of a taped monologue or scene work from a class or workshop. Explain to them you understand the difference between these demos and the ones you’ll get from actually working on set.
  8. Register for a weekly class or ongoing private coaching. Show you’re invested in training to be a strong actor and asset for the agent.
  9. Learn a monologue. Then learn 9 more. Seriously. Why limit yourself to one monologue? Learn a bunch and be able to describe each one in a single sentence like a movie logline. Give the agent a couple options and be prepared to deliver the one they choose.
  10. Be a fun professional to work with. No one likes to be around people who seem stressed, preoccupied or negative a lot. You don’t have to be the life of the party every day but leave every room a better place than when you first walked in.

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